General Blog

Why I need to go to Peru

Winter has arrived today, chronologically and literally – its pouring with rain and bleak as a summer’s day at  Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor. Just nine days until the rivers close and the trout get a break. I’m heading off to Honiara tomorrow. And Cristina gets back from Peru the day after. A momentous weekend.

Cristina “did” Machu Picchu during her last week. The altitude sickness sorted she decide to hike up the mountain overlooking the ruins the day after the big visit. That walk she describes as the scariest experience of her life, negotiating a single file slippery goat track with thousands of feet of nothing below, no hand rails, no safety rope, nothing. She did the research on that walk after she got back which scared here even more.

But this isn’t her travel log, this is about the trout.  For 3 weeks I’ve had to put up with tales of trout spotted on every bridge and in every pool of every river at every camp site between Lima and Aquas Calientes and have been quietly ignoring all references. Even the mention of trout on every menu in every restaurant and cabinas públicas (internet cafe) and the penny didn’t drop, finally this picture comes over the wires and I get it.  Real trout country!

 

Yesterday we did the annual big-fish stocking at Caddigat Lakes relocating fish from the drainage channels at Rod’s Tumut trout farm.  For forty years these channels have hosted the escapees who live a grand, mostly undisturbed life, cleaning  up waste food and growing fat on the aquatic life that thrives in the nutrient rich return flows. And every year we take some of these fish and put them in Caddigat Lakes. They’re not always the prettiest fish but add them to the fingerling stockings and natural recruitment during the years the creeks flow and it all adds up – and I’ve never heard a client complain the 6 lb hook jawed stumpy fin male rainbow they’ve just caught and released looked like it just fell out of the ugly tree.

This year, we got an extra top up because we literally cleaned out the whole drain and turned it off. The old farm is now closed and the new farm open. And all those fish get to live their remaining years in a wild fishery. About 500 of these fish, some up to 8 lb, went into the big dam.

I had a few casts waiting for the fish truck. First cast in the Rodney George got me a 4 lb fish, but then nothing in Teeny. The shearers are on the farm at the moment and I took one of the crew onto Spring, and was showing him how to retrieve the first cast when he hooked a 5 lb + fish. Brown nymph/black nymph, both weighted. So its pretty good at the moment.

Have you ever heard metric measurements don’t do justice to our fishing efforts? In Australia, we think of a trophy trout as  5 lb or greater.  Most people would be lucky to get a handful in their career. A lot never get one.  And a 10 lb’er, well that’s always news anywhere. The problem with metric is it just doesn’t sound the same when you say “I got a nice 4.52592 kilo’er!

Anyway, whilst we were down at Tumut, Col and I fished a secret spot. Four pools  where big fish hang out (its easy to find, under the willows, by the blackberry bushes, between the barbed wire fences). We could see big shadows and given the time of year fished glow bugs, nymphs and so on for 2 hours before Col got his 4.52592 plus kilo’er (actually 5.2 kilos, just under 11 and a half pound) – right after changing to a firey brown woolly bugger – what would we do without woolly buggers!

It was cold and wet but check out that green grass.  Seriously, its verdant over that side of the mountains.  Heading back to Adaminaby most of the creeks were running and the river was up at Kiandra. Just what we need to get the fish moving!

Tight tippets

 

Hard work and perseverance pays in the end!

 

It was a sunny day, light breezes forecast. I watched the trolling boats carefully. Surface lures and downriggers working the contours along the western shore. A single camp set up on the eastern shore mainly bait fishing into the teeth of an increasingly brisk westerly wind. I was looking for clues as we worked our way along the shore flicking Rapalas – who was catching fish and where? This weekend I had Garry, Brendan and Hugh on a charter, none of whom were fly fishers but all keen to learn. We’d started the weekend lawn-casting to develop some basic skills but for the boat trip decided on spinning rigs in preference to fly – an OHS issue! We were on Tantangara Reservoir which had been a last minute change of plan.  Eucumbene’s very muddy at 44%, compared to 61% last year, and it’s not the most attractive puddle.  Unlike Tantangara which at 27% is on fresh ground with grass to the edge of the water, and looks spectacular. On such a beautiful day and with good conditions forecast we were on the right lake – even the brumbies were out in force.

All my powers of observation didn’t help, I didn’t spot anyone catching fish. We cruised over to the Island and clambered ashore for some more casting practice, spooking a fish out of the shallows. At least it was nice to see one! And then Garry picked up a beautifully marked brown on a black woolly bugger on his last cast before lunch.

We cruised into the Murrumbidgee gorge for a break with warming coffee and lunch before checking out Nungar Creek where fish were just as scarce. As the sun dipped behind the cloud horizon and the breeze picked up the temperature dropped and pub grub at Snow Goose started to look like a good option.

We’d had a good day and the shortage of fish didn’t seem to worry anyone but me and with a trip to Caddigat Lakes planned for Sunday I was optimistic – with the team quickly developing their fly fishing skills.

 

We were there early and started on Snaggy Dam. The wind was a chilly and gusty nor-wester but the sun cut through the scattered cloud so it was comfortably warm. Hugh started the tally (which is always a cause for a sigh of relief) and after a good tussle brought his first ever fish, of any species, to shore.  We headed up to Spring Dam, and walked up to the inlet bank to take advantage of the wind. Brendan got onto a nice fish, and next cast Garry hooked up – our one double hook up for the day. So far, size 14 brown pheasant tail nymphs accounted for all the fish, Garry’s suspended under an indicator.

After lunch we fished Kidney Dam with a change of tactics in the gin clear water.  Garry fished a sinking line with an orange booby, quickly hooking a 5lb rainbow. Then a boiling rise from a cruising fish which promptly attacked Hugh’s mk2 woolly bugger cast right onto  its nose – and then spat the fly.  I’d started walking away muttering the fish wouldn’t have a second go when Hugh lifted into the best fish of the day.

 

 

We fished Dixieland Dam but the big fish didn’t show .  Great weekend guys, hard fought for fish are character building!

A quick note about Caddigat lakes. The  lake levels are down so this week’s forecast rain will be very welcome. The fish are in good condition with no sign of early spawners yet – but another month and they’ll be cruising the banks looking for trouble. I’ll be stocking over the next month.

Tight tippets all

Steve

Hotting up and cooling down!

 

Well, in the last week we’ve seen a lot of fish moving into the river and hanging around the top of the lake. The wind has been strong and mainly from the west, other than a wicked change into the south on Saturday afternoon – blowing that cold air up from Victoria (which I wish they’d keep).  We’ve been having some good early morning frosts so at least the grass has stopped growing!

I’ve had a couple of evening sessions from the boat including one with Gary which resulted in this beautifully coloured cracker.

Justin and Mark fished Caddigat and the Eucumbene River on Saturday.  Both got nice fish at Caddigat, including the Rodney George, and Mark latched onto a 60 cm plus brown on the river. His first Eucumbene brown.

On Saturday evening I tried yet another Col Sinclair variation on the WB, a silver and grey model.  It worked first cast!  Unfortunately none of the dozen or more anglers lining the bank caught a fish in the next hour and a half and neither did I, magic fly or not.

Hints for the top of the lake: 3 to 4 kg fluorocarbon tippet – 3 to 4 metres, straight through, no knots. Intermediate line.  Single fly size 8 to 10 black WB or any of the traditional Eucumbene night time patterns. Twitching slow, or short slow strip retrieve.

Two weeks away from  the lake and river now trying to wrap up the Game Council governance review so it’ll be a bit quiet on the blog front.

Tight tippets all

Steve

 

ANZAC Day Adaminaby

 

ANZAC day is well supported in Adaminaby. Over the years I’ve been able to attend many remembrance services in Sydney and Canberra, some at dawn others at 11 am, but the most memorable have always been the smaller services. Narooma, Huskisson, Gosford, HMAS Cresswell,  Cooma, Honiara, and now Adaminaby.  This year we woke at 5, stoked the fire (with a serious frost outside), and watched the ABC coverage of services at Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Gallipoli.  At 11 am we went to the Adaminaby cenotaph joining  about 100 others. Bearing in mind the population is just 230, think about nearly half of Sydney turning up in Martin Place.  It was typically moving and thought provoking and 2 helicopters did a fly over more or less right on the dot of 11. The Red Cross put on afterwards sponge cake that’s put enough sugar in the veins to ward of the cold or the next 48 hours or so – seriously, it could rival Kendall mint cake!

 

Anyway, I’d come for the fishing (in between serious report writing) so a Wednesday early morning  start on the river, and an hour on dusk was called for to keep the mind active.  I fished with John in the morning and as we rigged up and the light came we watched fish after fish boil in the pools without any subsequent serious interest in our offerings. It took a move to the fast runs out of the tail of the pools to find fish and here they were aggressively attacking glow bugs and nymphs. it was only a quick fish and we were on our way out as others were arriving. Not a spectacular session, we definitely need rain and river flow to get things pumping but there are fish in every pool, and a lot of them are visible.

For the evening session, bite time at the top of the lake is 5.30 to 6.30. A few hardy souls are fishing very late and catching fish (apparently) but its pretty cold. Col (Adaminaby angler) gave me a new pattern to try – details of which you’ll have to get from him – but needless to say it worked twice,  both nice browns before I got smashed up and lost it. I think it came with a built in self destruct.

 

The  lake has been fishing OK, but is a bit unpredictable. There are fish in deep water and full of what one friend describing the stomach contents of the one 3 lb rainbow  he caught on a recent trip from Victoria as “full of that tiny stuff that looks like couscous” – that’d be daphnia Anthony – as well as one fresh mudeye! The best and biggest rainbow reports are coming from Buckanderra – again, and what’s left of Middlingbank at 47% lake level and falling.

That’s all except to tell a little story about a missing fish.  But the story starts with a missing slipper.  Earlier in the week, Briggsy the dog decided to raid the slipper box and take one of Crissy’s slippers, the leopard skin one of course, into the garden. I went fishing right on dark, spotted it, and determined to rescue it when I got home.  But, when I got back a couple of hours later it had gone from the spot I left it.  Then, last night, I caught a 3 lb male brown, and knocked it on the head for the neighbour. This exchange gets my bins put out when I’m not here.  I left the fish in the shallow water, half in, half out, with the air temperature at 8 degrees.  45 minutes later, pitch black, with a cold wind 15 knots from the west I decided to clean it and head home. But it had gone.  I searched up and down and formed the view I’d either gone mad, or that I had a stalker stealing my things.

Anyway, walking back to the car I found it, about 25 metres from where I’d been fishing, with a little bit of cheek chewed out and an eye missing.  Hydromys chrysogaster (meaning “water-mouse with golden belly”) who we see swimming around every night I deduced to be the culprit – “I have no doubt”, reads the official statement.  I cleaned, topped and tailed the fish and left the remnants for him or her, and the family – as an offering. I still haven’t figured a way to blame “golden-belly” for the missing slipper yet – but its only a matter of time.

Tight tippets all!

 

 

 

 

Providence line up

The last few days have been mild, perhaps too mild. Saturday was a boat day checking out the Tollbar Creek area’s  post-apocalyptic  landscape. Muddy banks, dense stands of standing dead timber and plenty of fish holding in the deep water (on the sounder) but not a sign of a moving fish; no rises, no boils, nothing apart from one muddy swirl of sediment where  presumably a fish had been a few moments before. The lake level is at 48% and still dropping, so bring something to put your waders in or the car will stink of mud.  The wind picked up to the forecast 15 knot nor westerly and we took some spray over the bow as we headed back at lunchtime. An Adaminaby bakery pie looked more inviting. Not a particularly awesome first trip on the boat for Mark but what can I say other than it felt really fishy, just not quite today.

We headed for Caddigat Lakes in the afternoon and Mark got an hour head start as I took the chainsaw to some timber.  I found him on Snaggy Dam but he hadn’t been able to capitalise on his advantage.  I fished for an hour and managed to land two crackers before heading back to Adaminaby. Mark stayed on and managed to hook up on one of the big Dixieland Dam rainbows right on dusk, and reported lots of rises and boils from the leviathans that live in that particularly fertile dam.

Providence is getting a lot of attention and as usual etiquette is getting a bit forgotten.  The picture shows a particularly orderly set up but when a bunch of boats turned up after dark and motored up the channel and anchored right in front of us, well within casting distance, you can imagine I wasn’t too happy, and nor was Col. Having said that its nice to see a few large browns showing up and I caught one 3 kilo plus fish. What would be nice would be 20 mm of rain to really get them moving. I fished a fast intermediate in the channel drop off, with a big black WB and a MkII WB – nothing less than 3kg tippet.

Meanwhile the Buckanderra area has apparently fished well. Corrigan tells me he landed some 1.5 kilo rainbows mid week that “went off”. Small flies stick-caddis-like patterns in green. He cleaned a couple and they were full of daphnia mush which is great for helping to put on late season condition but they can be fussy if they’re feeding on plankton.

That’s all. I’ll be in Adaminaby next week leading up to ANZAC if anyone wants to catch up give me a call 0438 403362.

Tight Tippets

Steve

 

 

A very fine Easter!

The Easter weekend is a bookend for the summer’s trout fishing. A time when like the weather, and the shorter days, tactics change. Trout behave differently now.  If summer is the good times for trout with an abundant variety of insects and other aquatic critters to feast on, autumn heralds leaner pickings. It’s also when trout start to think of the rivers and the gravel beds in which they’ll prepare their redds, nests to protect their eggs for the four to six weeks before they hatch into alevins. These tiny fish are just a few millimetres long with a bright orange external yolk sac which will feed them whilst they spend the next three to four weeks deeper in the gravel before emerging as small fry. So, the fish have sex on their mind, and they’re often hungry. The condition they’ve put on during summer has been used to develop their roe and milt and they’re definitely trying to keep that condition until they’ve done their thing and made sure there will be more fish next year.

Good Friday was spent on the boat on Lake Eucumbene.  We launched at Anglers Reach and headed to Providence.  The bay to the east of the portal is usually my first stop off and it was chilly at 30 knots so I pulled up to catch some warm sun, sheltered from the light northerly breeze. The water had some colour and the litter of small insects in the surface film said the wind had been banging into the bay earlier in the day. A few small rises suggested there might be a rainbow or two hanging around and I was right. They attacked the fly, a small black WB, but only on quite a fast retrieve on an intermediate line. They weren’t big but they were in good condition and mirror silver as they flashed in the sunlight in the shallows.

I spotted Royce fishing loch style across the bay – the only Quintrex with a mammoth black Mercury hanging off the back – so I thought I’d move in on his water. Whatever you see that boat doing, it’s always good to copy. The breeze was light with the occasional bit of bluster and was now north with a bit of east in it. Not enough to justify using the drogue and you could pretty much fish 360 degrees around the boat. A pair of white breasted sea eagles sat in a tree top – and I saw what they saw. Two shapes porpoising against the western bank. Of course I went to look, but of course they moved off – the fish and the eagles. Then the fish showed again 200 metres along the bank, heading towards the river. Typical pre spawning behaviour – one part of me wanted to sneak up on them with the electric motor, another was happy to leave them alone.

I was fishing a long leader with two big woolly buggers, a blingy black bead head, and a firey red tungsten cone head, on an intermediate line. The kind of rig you can’t use easily from the shore without dredging the mud and losing the odd fly.  I should mention the lake is at 49% and has been dropping steadily for weeks now. There’s a muddy scar and no weed – depressing fish habitat.

There are lots of good bays between Providence and Anglers Reach and as I picked my way back to the ramp I fished two of them.  The first was just around the bend from Providence, before the first stand of timber on the western shore.  A wide muddy soak designed for this wind. First drift I hooked a cracking brown. As the fish came alongside the boat I posed as Crissie got the camera out, rod up, fish lying on its side – a perfect image. The fish had other ideas – taking another dive for freedom.  I had no choice but to let the rod tip drop or risk snapping it at that stupid angle. With slack line the fish took a turn around the motor skeg – gave one last flick and headed off with both flies – so no pic.

On the steep eastern shore there are a handful of small soaks and as I cruised past I spotted a rise and headed in to fish from the shore. I persisted with the intermediate line with very deep water right to the shore, but then several good boiling rises to the scattering of orange backed plague soldier beetles on the water had me scuttling back to the boat for my floating line and the orange beetle pattern.  As often happens, and despite there being plenty more beetles, another 20 minutes and not a single rise.  A quick note on plague solider beetles. On a charter in Copper Mine Bay last Spring the shore was covered in millions of them. The lake was rising then, and they were on any rock that might give them protection from the rising waters, huge masses of them as big as your fist.  We spread thousands of them onto the water to see if the fish were interested and with one exception – a boil right at the bag of the boat within seconds of putting out the “berley”, we saw no interest – these beetles exude a white sticky fluid to deter predators so maybe they don’t taste that good.

Saturday was a day at Caddigat with Phil and David.  A later start than usual so we could spend some time and money at the Adaminaby Easter fair – what a great day, hundreds of cars parked all the way from the BP to the Ampol on any square foot of grass.

Caddigat Lakes look great with enough rain to green up the pasture. Dixieland and Kidney are full after we’d pumped the week before, the blue skies occasionally greyed off, and the wind was a gentle nor’easter.

We parked the cars and walked the whole afternoon fishing Dixieland, Midway, Spring (which is clearing nicely), Snaggy and Kidney. We caught 6 beautiful rainbows but David blanked on his first trip (for no good reason really) – one break off, a couple of long distance releases, and some superb follows and boils in Dixie right on dark.  The fly of the day was that blingy black WB – which I’d just tied on as an attractor for the variety of much smaller point flies I’d tried committedly during the day.

Sunday I went for a look at the Eucumbene river with Col and Ian.  A lot of anglers were buzzing around the kilometre or so up and down from Denison camp site, with other “illegal” camp sites everywhere. Four wheel drives roared around and to and fro across the river, lots of activity but we didn’t see a fish caught.

There’s a good flow and the water temperature is down to 16 degrees. We fished the last two hours right at the river mouth.  I could count 17 anglers, some bait fishing, some boat, and a whole gaggle of shore based fly fishers – that equals 34 hours of fishing effort and not one fish. Eucumbene is a hard mistress all the time but some days she’s just plain tough!

So where did I start this? Fish behave differently in autumn,  food is getting scarce, and you can induce an aggression response from charged up fish – so mix up the flies. I think you can generally use bigger flies and the fish don’t mind a bit of colour and bling, especially orange (try the mark II and the tinsel black woolly buggers). The go-to retrieve on Eucumbene is very slow, verging on static. When they’re hungry, and in pre spawning mode try a strip strip pause or a fast roley-poley retrieve. And of course don’t forget to pop into the Adaminaby Angler and stock up on a few glow bugs and good advice for next month.  Remember, from 1 May the rules on the Eucumbene and Thredbo Rivers change – a bag limit of just one fish and it must be over 50 centimetres.  In my view that should be from 1 April – food for thought next time the fishing regs come around for review?

Today, Monday, I can’t make up my mind.  I really want to go to Tantangara which is green to the shore line and steady at 26% – but can’t find a play mate so far.

Last thing, I know the blogs are reducing in number – and there are a couple or reasons.  Firstly, if I’ve nothing much to write about I don’t write. Second, the charter trips are down this year partly because the lake has been fishing erratically which I think is why inquiries are down a lot from last year, but also partly because I’ve been doing other interesting work. Everything finds its balance.

Tight Tippets!

New Zealand trip March 2013

 

I’d missed my ABC radio – local and national. The imported second hand Japanese Subaru radio I’m sure would work just fine in downtown Tokyo – but in a hire car on the South Island of New Zealand it just picked up static, let alone local radio of any sort. My priorities on my late night return to Australia were to reinforce domestic bliss, make sure the dog and the cat remembered me, iron a shirt for my 6 am flight to Melbourne, and then slip back into my ABC radio listening routine. Returning from Melbourne that evening I duly clicked on ABC as I left the airport car park straight into a panel debate on happiness….

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/happiness-forum/4553682

One of the audience, a Nigerian born lady eloquently explained said she’d lived in the UK, Australia, Denmark and Nigeria and that the happiest people she’d come across were in Nigeria (the poorest country) – and that she’d never seen a single person smile in Denmark despite living there for four years – even though Denmark apparently rates top in international surveys on happy countries. I desperately wanted to phone in and say “come fishing in New Zealand”, I can guarantee you happiness! You wondered where this was going didn’t you?

So, Steve and I set off on our trip 2 weeks ago, heading into a stable weather pattern almost never seen in the land of the long white cloud, and chock full of optimism. I’d explained to him how I did my trip.  Fly to Christchurch, pick up the hire car, drive west towards Arthurs Pass and camp at the first lake I came to – either Lynden or Georgina – fish, chill, and then head to the west coast the following morning. Then drive 2500 to 3000 kilometres over the next 10 days fishing and camping along the way. Some rivers, some natural lakes, and some irrigation/hydro lakes in the high country. “At the end you’ll need a holiday”.

Our first night planned camping and fishing, bizarrely, was washed out. We got to Lynden and could hardly see it. Typical NZ late summer day blowing its proverbial off with fog and lashings of rain. “Plan B” kicked in and we headed back to Springfield to find some digs, slept like innocents and then headed to Brunner via Greymouth the following day.

It was Steve’s first visit to NZ so he took in the scenery as we wound our way down Arthurs Pass whilst simultaneously making the odd colourful comment about the skill NZ truck (and car) drivers demonstrated in being able to see around blind corners as they went flat maggot past sedentary camper vans.

So here’s the potted itinerary and fishing report:

Lake Brunner.  The lake was very low, way down from its high tide mark – like beach fishing. We stayed in a great “bach” at the Mitchells. Fishing tough to very spooky browns that appeared focussed on chasing bullies wherever a small creek ran into the lake. Small epoxy fish pattern turned out to be the most aggressively attacked pattern. Plenty of fish to spot and cast to. Best fish on a cicada pattern to a sighted cruising fish as it came out from under the trees onto the sand. Walked up the Orangipuku river and found a long deep pool with a single 7 lb plus brown cruising. One cast of the cicada as it swam towards us from over 20 metres away. Spotted the fly accelerated towards it and sucked it down. Bizarrely bumped into Stan on the lake (regular at Frying Pan and Buckanderra).

Whataroa. Fished the Waitangitaona River near the white heron colony. Very low flow. Saw fish but no cigar. Lakes Hawea and Wanaka. Great scenery and a few nice rainbows. Smelt patterns, smallish nymphs. Diamond Lake. Small rainbows and the odd good brown.  Bizarrely (2) bumped into Andrew – a mate from WA.  Greenstone and Caples. Hiked a couple of hours up the Caples from the bridge. Saw one big brown and one rainbow to fish to (got a great video of that effort http://youtu.be/6af_vp8v6mw). Very low flow. Then walked down the river from the Greenstone car park bridge to the lake, very braided and no pools at all.  Lake Wakatipu was spectactular. Schools of salmon crashing around 200 metres or so offshore.  Walked into Lake Sylvan from the Routeburn for a quick look. Still beautiful!

We stayed in the Glenorchy Hotel which is pretty much the only option this far up the valley unless you want to drive the extra 50 kilometres from Queenstown every day. The motel/backpackers/hotel all feels a bit tired – the kind of tired you see when there isn’t much competition but it was still nice.  This stage of the trip wasn’t too productive from a fish perspective and we put that down pretty much to water levels. With lower than normal terrestrial food input the fish were lean and scarce, and low water levels made spooking fish all too easy. One of the things we hadn’t really thought about was that “stable weather pattern” meant not much rain and in a country where both river and lake fish are used to regular influxes of terrestrial tucker this would have an impact.

I made a few calls and Rod and Isles let slip they’d been catching fish on the Mataura.  So the next morning we set off for a 350 kilometre day trip. Isles who farms nearby agreed to take us to a likely spot, which he did, and we fished a couple of kilometres of beautiful water in a howling easterly with heavy cloud cover.  Not ideal, we saw plenty of fish but were nearly always too close.  They didn’t spook easily which was good – but after a while we figured that’s because they’re tame!

After that we stayed in Clyde for a couple of nights and headed for Manorburn –  always my favourite lake and the main reason I go – to fish cicadas on the tussock lakes.  Finally, some cooperative fish.

With three days to go we headed for Lake Ohau. I spoke to the station manager and got permission to drive into the top of the lake but didn’t really need to. The lake level was down a long way and the foreshore was pretty accessible from the road. The fish were patchy but there, and we had a good day, mainly on midges, nymphs and smelt patterns.

For our final days fishing we fished Lynden and Georgina.  They looked great when we got there and I had the best fishing of the trip, starting with a cracking 4 lb brown that fought like a Trojan – and some fat and fit rainbows. Both these lakes are full of weed and the fish were well really fed.

We’d stocked up on all sorts of flies before heading off. In the end, a few cicadas, fur-and-feather smelt patterns, and the usual range of nymphs and midges did the trick.  Despite some serious flogging of streamers and woolly buggers in the big lakes and flicking around blow flies in the shallows – both of which normally bring results – this time it was a waste of time.  Tactics, flies and retrieves were typically Australian-style. Maybe, just maybe the fact the country was declared in drought after the lowest period of rainfall on record had something to do with that?

If you read to the end here’s one of the projects I’m involved in at the moment so the lakes are getting a bit of a break: The Australian

Another top trip, recommend it to anyone.

Tight tippets!

Steve

 

Friday night special

We rolled into town right on dark on a stormy Friday night. All the way down the Snowy Mountains Highway we’d skirted thunderstorms to the south and west and now the east. The odd bolt of lightning, intensely coloured rainbows and sheets of rain on distant hills way across the plains. But Yens Bay, as it is on most nights, would be calm and perfect other than perhaps there would be a few too many people on a weekend night. The car was unloaded in double time, the cat fed, the rods and the dog loaded, Cristina with her book and a beer. The sky to the south was black and threatening. The kind of sky that makes you stare at it. Layers on layers of towering cumulus blackened by the lack of sun, veined with reflected strips of the last daylight bringing its dense, layered structure into contrast. To the eye it was beautiful. The camera wasn’t smart enough.

I drove past Yens, and past Bonny’s staring into the sunset horizon passing a couple of huddled groups and leaving them to drown their worms and drink their beer in peace and on out to the headland where the westerly breeze pushed across the water leaving a nice ripple line half a cast offshore. Crissy and Briggsy the dog headed for the hills and I contemplated options. Too dark to tie a fly on without a torch.  The end of another 30 degree plus day. A balmy westerly. No signs of insects other than the odd whine of a mosquito. Not a rise to be seen. Small olive tailed brown woolly bugger of course.

I fished it deep and slow and as the minutes passed a few very small fish put their noses up for midges close to shore.  I was standing on yabby banks exposed by the rapidly falling lake levels now at below 54%. The margins were either sand, shale, or mud and not a spot of weed in sight, the water as clear as gin. Gone were the clouds of caddis and thumping great moths, the crane flies and mudeyes of a few weeks ago. This would be hard going now for the fish but with very little food they would be at least be opportunistic.

One fish rose on the ripple line beyond my cast. I thought about running down the bank but decided in these conditions it wouldn’t be there when I arrived so I cast in its general direction hoping it would find me. Almost as soon as I started the retrieve I felt tension and lifted into a solid fish. I had 8 lb tippet so gave it some to keep it out of the trees and snags I could see to my left. It flopped on the surface and I imagined I’d soon be admiring the red spots of another good brown, hoping it would match the last 3 lb’er or even better. It acted like a brown, plenty of head shaking and lunging but with hindsight, the couple of reel testing runs into open water was the clue that when I finally got the fish into the shallows it was a rainbow. unusually I had the net with me because there’s so much mud on the shore at the moment it’s just too muddy to comfortably wade ashore and handle fish. I swear it tipped the scale at almost 2 kg, certainly an honest 4 lb’er.  That, I think, is probably the biggest rainbow I’ve caught on Lake Eucumbene at 56 centimetres and not in a particularly well fed condition.

The rest of the evening was quiet.  As full dark settled a few fish were rising a bit too far offshore, but it was what I needed on a Friday night after a long drive and a long week.

For those interested I’ve had a cancellation over Easter so anyone interested in a day or two at Caddigat lakes or a charter on the boat, maybe a trip to Tantangara, get in touch. The fishing may be slow at the moment in all this heat, but come the last weekend of March it’ll be a different story.

Tight tippets!

Long hot weekend

As the scales on the weigh-net tipped 5lbs I allowed myself a small measure of smug self satisfaction not really believing I deserved it. Emergency response experts often talk about the incident pit – the scenario where one mistake builds on another and another and before long you’ve got a disaster.  My little potential pit began because I’d only recently reorganised my tippet spools and added some 2X 3lb for some fussy small rainbows – so the 4X 6 lb was now number three in the stack, instead of the 3X 8.2 lb. My headlamp battery had gone flat after an accidental pocket turn on the night before and then I’d forgotten to change the batteries. In the failing twilight I’d tied on a leader by “feel” thinking it was the 3x when really it was the lighter 4X, then added a big brown woolly bugger because it had an enormous eye I could thread the tippet through by holding it up against the last of the light on the horizon. Then I hooked this nice brown 10 metres offshore mid way between 2 tree stumps whilst standing next to a waist high wire fence disappearing into the water.

I immediately knew there would be no ceremonious head shaking 10 minute battle to report – I would have to drag it in. Phil raced along the bank with the net whilst at the same time somewhere deep in my cerebral cortex the realisation dawned tippet stack position 3 was the lighter tippet definitely not suitable for the required heave-ho approach. For non technical readers all that means is I’d stuffed up my tippet selection, and taken a huge risk with my knots leaving me ill equipped for the challenge. All I could think of was this furious fish crashing around on the surface, and my preparation errors – so I let it run, once. It screamed off 15 metres of line and took a dive into the bottom of a swamp full of snags where it lunged and angrily shook its head. With Phil and net in position I started a steady retrieve letting the rod absorb the lunges and praying the woolly would stick.  With typical mastery Phil netted the fish on just the second attempt – the first no doubt my inept attempt to guide it in.  Less than three minutes and it was all over – it should have been a disaster but the little collection of Solomon Islands fish gods sitting at home in the office must have been aligned in accordance with the instructions.

Over a 3 day weekend where the mercury regularly spent its days in the 30’s we fished Tantangara, the Murrumbidgee downstream of the dam, and Lake Eucumbene in the evenings.  On Tantangara we had little success. A light easterly meant we could Polaroid the eastern shore in the early morning but we got there a bit late and probably made the wrong choice of banks to hunt. By the time we found a few good fish – including one monster – the clouds and light were stopping us seeing them properly.  We fished the western shore but the water was over 23 degrees and the fish just didn’t come out to play – just the odd tempting rise way out in the lake.  The Murrumbidgee gave us some nice fish, browns and rainbows. Further downstream the fish were plentiful and small. Nearer the dam wall bigger and plentiful. There were masses of dragon flies and damsel flies all along the banks and plenty of hoppers on the banks.  One evening I struggled on Eucumbene but Phil did well. Another we both got onto fish; as well as the 5 lb brown I caught, I got smashed up by another, and Phil hooked a monster that just simply came off mid fight as well as landing a mix of rainbows and browns.

Already you can sense the days shortening and it’s starting to cool.  Another few weeks and Caddigat Lakes will fire again and then it’ll be this year’s early Easter upon us.  Just 4 weeks until I leave for NZ with Corrigan and 12 days of travel and fish so if you’re friendly with any of the NZ weather gods have a quiet word please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly of the week for the lakes is any mid size mud-eye pattern, or unweighted WB and WW fished from dusk until after dark in the surface film short jerky retrieves and move a bit of water with the fly. Size 12 or 14 green nymph for earlier on in the lakes.  For the ‘bidgee hopper patterns, clinkhammers – fish big, high and dry and as Phil said “don’t think how small a tippet can I get away with, but rather how big a tippet can I get away with”. Sage words on more than a couple of occasions this weekend when 2 or 3 lb fish would have nailed us in the undercut or weed were it not for 8lb tippet.

 

Tight tippets all!

Steve

Fin Clipping at Gaden hatchery

Each year the Government hatchery at Jindabyne tops up Lake Eucumbene with rainbow trout fingerlings. A portion of those fingerlings are anaesthetised and fin clipped by volunteers as part of a program to monitor the success of the fish stocking – 2013 fingerlings are minus the right pectoral fin so look out for fish swimming clockwise next year.  This year’s Jindabyne hatchery fin clipping event attracted a good crowd of volunteers – so good it was all over in a day.  Not only that DPI fisheries were proudly sporting their new high tech wire tagging machine (literally out of the box the night before) that inserts a micro tag in the snout of a 50mm fingerling. Top science.

The fin clipped trout can be visibly seen by the technicians electro fishing the spawning run, whilst the wire tag can be detected with the aid of a hand held machine. Both help to monitor the contribution of stocked fish to the total population, as well as age and growth rates.

Tight Tippets

Steve

Fly Fishing and Accommodation in Adaminaby